When it comes to growing your company, few things are more important than generating qualified leads.
After all, even if a person or business is technically part of your target market, they won’t necessarily convert into a paying customer. Lead qualification efforts maximize the potential of your sales team by helping them focus on prospective customers who are most likely to convert.
When you wean out unqualified leads and focus prospecting efforts on candidates with the highest conversion potential, the results can be truly amazing.
What Is a Qualified Lead?
According to research from MarketingSherpa, 73% of B2B leads aren’t “sales ready.” Needless to say, differentiating between qualified leads and unqualified leads is an important starting point for any sales process. In reality, even the most unqualified lead has the potential to become qualified after the right interactions with your marketing.
In the most basic sense, a qualified lead is someone who is ready to buy and likely to convert. Qualified leads go through your company's nurturing campaigns. They know what their pain points are and are actively researching solutions and defining a budget to solve these problems.
As a result, they typically already have a decent understanding of what your company offers. At the very least, it means they know enough to have already decided for themselves whether your services are worth investigating further.
On the other hand, an unqualified lead doesn't have a clear idea of what your company offers. Quite often, they may not fully recognize what their needs are, or what type of solution would best solve their problems. In other words, they are still a long way from being ready to buy.
Types of Qualified Leads
It should come as no surprise that working with high-quality leads should be a key priority for your sales team. By working with qualified leads, sales professionals can optimize how they use their time. They can increase their sales and retention rates rather than aimlessly reaching out to every possible lead.
There are several types of qualified leads — not all of which are ready to speak with a sales rep. Understanding a lead's place in your sales funnel can assist in lead scoring and guide your team's conversion efforts.
Information Qualified Lead (IQL)
Information qualified leads are at the very top of the sales funnel. These are often referred to as "cold" leads because they are not ready to buy. Instead, they are at the very beginning of their research process. They may be willing to submit their contact information to an online form in exchange for useful information from your company (such as a brochure, white paper, or webinar link), but sometimes, they might be content to just briefly browse your website.
IQLs aren't ready for a follow-up sales call, but they should be added to your marketing automation efforts when possible. This should involve basic tasks like sending an email with the download link for requested content. You can send additional follow-up emails later on to encourage them to learn more. Retargeting ads will also help keep your brand top of mind. However, these cold leads aren't worth a concerted effort from your sales reps.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
A marketing qualified lead or MQL is considered a warm lead. These can be individuals who are already in your system as an IQL but are now reaching out to learn more. Quite often, MQLs have regularly engaged with your brand's social media channels and other digital marketing content.
These are the people who keep coming back to your website for more information as they reach the middle of the sales funnel and eliminate other, less desirable prospects. MQLs will reach out to your marketing team for more information that can help them in the middle of the sales funnel, such as case studies, a free consultation, or a product demo or trial.
In many ways, the MQL stage is the most important part of the sales process. Marketing teams must work with sales reps to develop a lead scoring system that identifies which MQLs are ready to engage with the sales team. Focusing on specific metrics, such as demo participation or opting in to a program or list, can streamline the handoff to sales. Using the BANT framework (budget, authority, need, and timeframe) can also help the marketing team identify if a lead is ready to move forward.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Sales qualified leads are often called "hot" leads because they are at the very end of the marketing funnel. These leads meet three or more of the BANT criteria. They have had a fair number of interactions with the brand through the marketing department and are in a position where prompt outreach from a sales rep can help them choose your company, rather than a competitor.
Using knowledge already gained from previous interactions with the brand, sales reps can use SPIN selling to help qualified leads determine if your solution is right for them. By waiting until this stage of the marketing funnel to begin their outreach, salespeople can speed up their sales cycle by only interacting with prospects who are ready to make a decision.
Sales-Ready Lead (SRL)
The sales-ready lead (SRL) is every salesperson's dream come true. Though rare, they are still worth mentioning. These are the leads who reach out to your company because they want to speak with the sales team to finalize a deal. They have already done research on their own and are ready to buy, even if they aren't part of your prospecting system already.
In this case, there isn't much to do except help them complete the transaction and begin onboarding!
How to Manage Relationships With Leads
Qualifying leads can be a long, drawn-out process that requires significant input from both marketing and sales departments. Because of this, these two groups need to work in sync to determine the appropriate marketing strategy for each stage of the funnel. A well-defined lead qualifying strategy will ensure prospects are given the right content at each stage of their journey.
A CRM tool can prove especially useful for tracking and managing these ongoing relationships. Such tools allow marketing and sales to record crucial pieces of information, such as when a prospect last received an email or spoke with a sales rep. These tools can also store key demographic information as well as B2B data such as company size or the contact's role within an organization.
Detailed, up-to-date customer profiles help your team readily identify whether a prospect is progressing closer to a sale. The more complete data you have, the more effective sales reps will be when they make the call.
Generate More Qualified Leads With ServiceBell
Personal interactions can play a crucial role in the lead generation process. When potential customers speak with a salesperson face to face, they can gain more information and insights than they would just by browsing your site on their own. Asking the right qualifying questions during this process can even get customers started with the sales process.
This is where ServiceBell can make a real difference for helping you generate qualified leads. With features such as live chat, user monitoring, and screen takeover, your sales reps can provide helpful, personalized information during each session. Rich information from personal interactions can greatly increase conversion rates as you qualify more leads for your sales funnel.
More qualified leads ultimately result in higher sales. Every effort to improve lead generation is well worth the investment.